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Night of Second Chances for Many Lake Forest Football Players As They Advance to Quarterfinals

In a memorable night at Varsity Field in front of a full house, Lake Forest's football team wins its second playoff game for the first time since 1993.

We all believe in second chances. After all, it's an American pastime. 

Just ask Jimmy Stewart. 

In a game George Bailey himself would have loved to watch, Lake Forest's football team showed life can be wonderful when presented with opportunities to redeem itself.

Friday's 23-21 victory over a more-talented Lakes team was proof the Scouts are playing the 2012 season with a unified purpose propelling them into a position rarely reached in the history of the school. 

"The thing we talk to them all the time about is all the effort and hard work will pay off, it won’t be over until we determine its over," coach Chuck Spagnoli said. "Our kids have been an extremely resiliant, extremely competitive group."

Which starts with the quarterback, senior Andrew Clifford. All season long, Clifford has protected the football. Going into Friday's game, he has thrown 14 touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions. Against Lakes he struggled, with two tipped balls picked off by Eagles defenders. He also fumbled late in the third quarter on a quarterback sneak, giving the ball back to Lakes with the Eagles leading 21-20. 

But with the Scouts still down 21-20 with 3:53 left in the game, the defense forced a turnover, giving Lake Forest the ball on their own 35-yard line. Clifford showed icy resolve, going 3-of-4 for 35 yards on the Scouts drive, including converting a key third-and-eight on a 14-yard pass to senior David Glynn (four catches, 39 yards). Four plays later, Lake Forest was in position for a game-winning kick.

"Our offense was a little bit sloppy at times but came together on the last drive especially," Clifford said. "We realized we either score some points or we are going home. I knew we were getting the ball. We just needed to score."

Then there was senior receiver Nick Giordano. Lakes had just gone ahead 14-13 with 3:42 left in the first half but Lake Forest was on the move. It was first and 10 from the Eagles 41 when the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Giordano broke free on a post route in the middle of the field. Clifford threw a perfect pass only to have the sure-touchdown dropped by Giordano. 

Rather than sulk over the wasted opportunity, Giordano took a different approach.

"It was a mental error. When I came off the sidelines, instead of yelling at me, Coach (Spagnoli) gave me a high five," Giordano said. "Coach (Phil) DeWald said 'are you going to pout or are you going to play?' I said 'I want to play.'"

And on Lake Forest's first drive of the second half, Giordano proved prophetic, as he got his chance to make a play. Leaping over a Lakes defender, he corralled a Clifford pass for a 35-yard touchdown, which gave the Scouts a 20-14 lead with 9:12 remaining in the third quarter. 

Another opportunity seized. If none of these plays are made, the ending is irrelevant. 

In the first quarter, senior kicker Baylor Broughton was wide left on a 39-yard field goal attempt. On the Scouts first touchdown after a blocked punt, his extra point was blocked. 

Late in the fourth quarter, as the Scouts drove deep into Lakes territory, Broughton was a lonely figure on the sidelines. When Lake Forest failed to convert a third-and-one from the Lakes nine-yard line with just over a minute left in the game, he was called upon to give the Scouts the lead. 

His no-doubt-about-it 26-yard field goal was the winning margin in Lake Forest's thrilling 23-21 victory.

It was the final example of "It's A Wonderful Night" at Lake Forest for the Scouts and the capacity crowd watching the instant classic at Varsity Field.

""I knew pretty soon after I kicked it that it was good," Broughton said. "Pressure. It's pressure. Part of being a kicker is having a short memory."

But not for this game, which for anybody watching, will be remembered for a very long time.  

Lake Forest travels to Niles to play Notre Dame in the third round of the 6A state playoffs. The game will be played on Friday Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Notre Dame.

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